MANILA, Philippines — Earl Scottie Thompson and Nigerian Bright Akhuetie played men-possessed as Perpetual Help overpowered San Sebastian, 84-70, to reclaim the solo lead in the 91st NCAA basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City on Friday.
Thompson came through with 21 points, 15 rebounds and 14 assists to claim his second triple-double effort of the season and fifth overall while Akhutie bulldozed his way to 20 points and a season-high 23 boards to carry the Altas back to the top with an immaculate 4-0 (win-loss) slate.
“I’m blessed to have good kids who are determined to win games,” said Perpetual Help coach Aric del Rosario in Filipino referring to the highly-skilled tandem of Thompson and the 6-8 Akhuetie.
Perpetual’s strong start was the Las Pinas-based school’s best after a long while, putting them in great position to challenge for its first ever championship after finishing runners up twice in 2004 and in the 80s under Bong Hawkins.
And credit to the heroics of Thompson and Akhuetie.
“Earl and Bright are the heart and soul of this team and if we are going to shoot for the title, we will need them to come up with these kinds of games,” said del Rosario, who has steered the Altas to three straight Final Four stints under his tutelage.
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It was particularly impressive with Thompson, who breached the triple-double mark as early as late in the third quarter.
But the 23-year-old Thompson, a proud son of Digos, Davao del Sur, was thinking more of the win that the statistics.
“I wasn’t concern on my stats because I was more focused on helping my team win,” said Thompson, who is expected to go high in this year’s PBA rookie draft.
Interestingly, Perpetual Help will next clash with an over-achieving Letran, the only other unbeaten team with a 3-0 mark including a giant-sized 93-80 upset win over five-peat champion San Beda Thursday, in a showdown of undefeated squad on Thursday.
“We look forward for that match,” said del Rosario.
The Stags, who were led by diminutive Ryan Costelo’s 18 points, fell to their second defeat against a triumph.
In juniors’ action, San Sebastian slammed Perpetual Help, 87-58, to improve to 2-1 while Emilio Aguinaldo routed Jose Rizal, 111-73, to post its first win in four assignments.
Perpetual Help 84- Thompson 21, Akhuetie 20, Dagangon 16, Oliveria 9, Ylagan 6, Eze 6, Dizon 3, Elopre 3, Tamayo 0, Coronel 0, Gallardo 0, Bantayan 0, Sadiwa 0, Cabiltes 0, Pido 0
San Sebastian 70- Costelo 18, Guinto 13, Capobres 13, Ortuoste 9, Calisaan 6, Pretta 3, Vera 3, Sibal 2, Mercado 2, David 1, Bragais 0, Santos 0, Alvarez 0, Fabian 0, Bulanadi 0
Quarterscores: 19-14 40-34 63-55 85-70